Rack + Clutch: St. Louis "Fashion Truck" Has Dispute With Mayor Francis Slay Over Licensing

click to enlarge Emily Ponath of Rack + Clutch. - Courtesy of J Elizabeth Photography
Emily Ponath of Rack + Clutch.

It's like a food truck -- only instead of selling food, Rack + Clutch sells jewelry, accessories and clothing on the streets of St. Louis.

The only challenge for this brand-new "fashion truck," which seems to be the first of its kind in the region, is that there's no established license process in St. Louis for this line of work, which means that -- despite the owner's efforts to get proper approvals -- Rack + Clutch for now is constantly at risk of city officials shutting it down.

"The ordinances don't allow for anything like this," Emily Ponath, owner of Rack + Clutch, tells Daily RFT. "People are totally loving it, but the city was hating on me."

Ponath says she was especially frustrated when she heard that Mayor Francis Slay had referred to the "fashion truck and its mobile sisters" as "pirates."

What's the discrepancy here?

Ponath, a 31-year-old Shrewsbury resident, explains to us that she's been doing her best to contact the city and get the permits she needs to operate her truck, which she officially opened last week and has been out for just four days.

"I'm paying taxes," she says, noting that she does have a vehicle vendor license.

That license, however, does not allow to her to park and sell on public streets, which poses a significant obstacle to her business plan.

And she can't get a food truck permit either, because it doesn't apply to her business.

"I'm not a food truck. And I'm not stationary," she says. "I started a mobile boutique. It's a fashion truck -- like a food truck, but with clothes."

On one of her first days, someone from the city told her she had to shut down.

"It's kind of stupid," she says. "There's not currently a permit offered for what I want to do. They have to change the ordinance."

Meanwhile, she and the mayor debated the matter on Twitter, and Slay eventually posted a lengthy Facebook response, which Ponath says she appreciated.

And this morning, Slay tweeted:

The city's argument is that mobile boutiques constitute uncharted territory in St. Louis and that officials need to come up with a fair, reasonable way to license and permit these merchants -- much like they did with food trucks, which are pretty new in the city.

The city says that it's important to have a clear permitting process for these businesses so that they pay their fair share and don't unfairly hurt brick and mortar businesses that sell similar goods and pay taxes and other costs associated with their locations.

Slay, in his message, says he is a committed to finding a compromise.

Continue for more on the fashion truck and Mayor Francis Slay's response.